Through three weeks, this article has become my favorite thing to write. It is really a great thought exercise to think about the difference between what actually happened and what was most likely to happen.
In Week One, that meant looking at all of the touchdowns that were left off of the board, while in Week Two bad coaching prevented a lot from happening.
This week, we are going to look through the lens of the blowouts. Although these teams or players may have won or put up numbers, the final results don’t tell the story of their true dominance. By looking closer we can see who’s really better and worse than the results may initially show.
Without further ado, here’s what didn’t happen in Week 3:
What didn’t happen: Kansas City didn’t blow out Baltimore
In what every analyst in the league was contractually obligated to call “The Game of the Week” Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes didn’t disappoint.
The box score shows them both amassing yards and scoring touchdowns as Mahomes got out early but Jackson came back late, only to wind up falling short as the Ravens lost 33-28. They covered the spread, hit on the over, and everyone patted themselves on the back for correctly predicting that Baltimore is good, but not quite at the Chiefs level yet (The USA TODAY headline was “Mahomes edges Jackson”).
In reality, though, Kansas City was in a different league and the final score doesn’t represent how in control they were for almost the entire affair. To support this, let’s jump to just over 13 minutes left in the 4th quarter.
Baltimore was facing a 4th and 5 from Kansas City’s 30 down 30-13. It is safe to say that if they do not score a touchdown at this juncture, then the game could get away from them. Immediately from the snap, Kansas City is swarming Lamar Jackson’s drop back, and as he is being swallowed by a free blitzer as well as crowded by linemen, Jackson heaves a ball down towards the goal line.
With the ball in the air, receiver Seth Roberts appears to push off the defender (a potential offensive pass interference) and come back to make the catch before being downed just short of the goal line. Baltimore goes on to score the touchdown, and instead of Kansas City having the ball up 17 and extending that into the twenties, Baltimore has enough life to keep it close.
Later, Jackson would complete another blind heave to Willie Snead that would set up another touchdown, but the reality of this game was the Baltimore was never really in it after the second quarter.
In the big picture, this is a somewhat disturbing trend for Baltimore, as their Week 1 Miami blowout has been rendered less impressive by the subsequent blowout of the Dolphins, and then they had trouble putting away an Arizona team who has tied the Lions and lost to the Panthers, both at home.
Baltimore is certainly good, and they deserve all the praise they have received, but by looking at what didn’t happen this week, we can see that they are not in the class of the AFC elite. In the future, understanding their true ability will win us money.
What didn’t happen: The Rams didn’t blow out the Browns
If you follow Owl Eats Football’s Best Bets, you know that this game was important. It was the missing piece to a teaser, a parlay, and a four win week. So I understand if you are skeptical about this perspective, as I certainly watched the game expecting the Rams to dominate.
But even with that bias acknowledged, this game was not as close as the final score. There was a lot of meat left on the bone for the Rams and a lot of bullets dodged for the Browns. Put more bluntly, the reality of this game is that the Browns are in a bad place and the Rams still deserve our respect as an elite team.
After a miserable first half that saw the Browns take a 6-3 lead into the locker room thanks to a Jared Goff fumble in the final minutes, the second half began with the Rams dominating.
On the first drive of the third quarter, LA drove down the field using inside runs and quick passes to Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods. The Browns were never able to stop this combination, with only the Rams confounding obsession with running outside derailing them.
After a Kupp touchdown put the score at 10-6, Cleveland came back and immediately put themselves in third down. With pressure coming, Baker Mayfield tried to slot in a pass to Damion Ratley that was swatted away by Aqib Talib, only to bounce right back to Ratley for a first down. Had this been a 3-and-out for the Browns, the Rams could have seized momentum and made this a two score game very quickly.
Instead the Browns kept moving only to again find themselves in third down, this time third and long. Dialing up a blitz, the Rams were again on the verge of swallowing up Mayfield when he dropped a perfectly timed screen to Nick chubb for 31 yards.
Subsequently, the drive moved to the 1 yard line after a dubious pass interference call, and a touchdown followed only because of a blown Rams coverage.
On their lone touchdown drive of the game, the Browns needed four lucky breaks just to make it into the end zone. Without even one of these, the Rams would have gotten the ball back with the chance to blow the game open.
Speaking of blowing the game open, the Rams then failed to do so thanks in large part to an interception and bad play calling.
Although the Rams ended up scoring another touchdown and winning the game by the final of 20-13, they left a lot of points on the field. Goff’s interception came as the Rams were using an up-tempo, no-huddle offense to neutralize the brown’s pass rush. It cost the Rams an opportunity to put more points on the board and made the game seem closer than it was.
Similarly, the Rams were unstoppable running up the middle, as Cleveland was hammering the edges of the line, but often opted for pitches or stretch plays that were blown up in the backfield. This was another way in which the Rams shot themselves in the foot, but where some people might view it as a win for the Browns.
And in that way, we can learn more from what didn’t happen than what did. The Rams dominated this game and the Browns looked lost. A seven point difference might tell people that these two teams are close in talent, but what we can see by breaking it down is that they’re not even in the same ballpark.
What didn’t happen: Ezekiel Elliot and Dalvin Cook didn’t have monster days
Often when looking at running backs, we look at their stats and compare them to other players stats. In this way, Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliot had good days, but did not break the bank. The reality, though, is that each was much closer to a bigger game and both are worth investing in based on their teams ability to run the ball.
Individually, Cook rushed for 110 yards and a TD while Elliot had 125 yards. But when looking at these rushing numbers, it is more helpful to examine their team’s rushing outputs to better understand where these two players could be moving forward.
Against the Raiders, the Vikings ran for 213 yards on 38 carriers for 5.6 yards/carry. Meanwhile, the Cowboys ran for 235 yards on 34 carries for 6.9 yards/carry.
So while both Cook and Elliot had respectable days, they both played in blowouts and their teams showed the ability to support much larger games from them in the future.
Unpacking this a little more, Elliot saw both rushing touchdowns in his game go to other players, with Tony Pollard and Dak Prescott running them in. While Prescott may do this occasionally in the future, Elliot stands to carry the full work load in closer games, making Pollard’s 100 yards and a TD part of his expected output.
For Cook, even though he ran for a touchdown, he also watched as three other players ran one in, including Adam Thielen, Kirk Cousins, and Alexander Mattison. Again, some of this might replicate itself in the future, but the truth is Cook can expect to be accounting for almost all of the Vikings rushing touchdowns moving forward.
Both players delivered some value and both will be put into lineups in the future. By seeing the astronomical potential of each team’s running game, however, we can be more aggressive in rostering these backs moving forward and cash in when the yards and touchdowns are inevitably more consolidated in future games.
In this case, what didn’t happen may offer us the opportunity to see an explosion coming. And that explosion may win us a lot of money.